20 Sideline Observations: Week 14

The weather wasn't nice in Jacksonville but the eventual two touchdown win to push the Texans to 7-6 was very. Although the Browns couldn't finish off the Colts to cut the AFC South lead to one game, the Texans finished the deal on a game that easily could've gotten away from them.

Here are a few observations from the rainy, wet sideline.

  1. One of the most impressive aspects of JJ Watt's Sound FX mic'd up segment, in my opinion, was

when he told Texans DL coach Bill Kollar that he was going to stick on "No. 67 or whatever his number is". He meant 76 but his point was that he knew he could absolutely take over facing LT Will Svitek.

During Sunday's game, in the second half, I saw him sprint over to the left side of the defense where RT Sam Young was. The Texans had just broken the huddle and Watt ran directly to that spot. As OLB John Simon started in that direction, Watt waved him back to the other side. Watt then proceeded to draw Young, TE Marcedes Lewis and a RB which opened up the inside pass rush for Tim Jamison and company. It's amazing that Watt has such freedom within the defense, yet still play within the confines of the defense play in and play out.

  1. Jags LB Telvin Smith's hit on Andre Johnson was nasty and illegal but I don't think for a second that it was dirty. Smith is vocal and loud and will lead the Jaguars for a long time coming and he plays hard, but not dirty. I don't think many Texans fans took it as such, but it's tough to see Andre take such a hit and not have the thought enter the ol' cerebellum.
  1. Early in the game, the Texans defense struggled with runs off the Jaguars left side, the side with LG Zane Beadles and LT Luke Joeckel. Those runs resulted in a lengthy drive that turned into the only touchdown of the day for the Jaguars. The Texans put Brooks Reed and Watt on that side for the next

drive and the Jaguars went nowhere. Defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel adjusted accordingly in the second half and had even more success against the Jaguars running game for the most part.

  1. It was clear, not that it wasn't evident back in the pre-draft process, that the Jaguars selection of Blake Bortles with the third pick in the 2014 NFL Draft was the dead-on right pick. The Texans pass rush was completely dominant against a third stringer at RT, two rookies and a second year player at left tackle.

Yet, Bortles bought himself time and extended a good number of throws throughout the day. He'll be a handful for years and his receivers didn't help him out too much on Sunday. Cecil Shorts III dropped a sure catch-and-run big play in the second half and he wasn't the only one. Denard Robinson couldn't latch on to a couple of swing routes. Bottles will get better but as teams game plan to keep him in the pocket, he'll need to show much better pocket mechanics and footwork to make consistent throws downfield. I just hope he stinks for years against the Texans. No offense, Blake.

  1. The Texans, yet again, started the game off with a penalty, a holding call on TE CJ Fiedorowicz. Now, CJ got his money's worth on the hold but it negated a huge Arian Foster run to start the game.
  1. Speaking of Foster, when he made decisive cuts, when his OL gave him a sliver of space and he could hit runs downhill, he got to the second level in a heartbeat. There was one run in the second half after the Texans stalled on a drive early in third quarter - wow. Foster nearly ripped off Ryan Fitzpatrick's arm as he snatched the ball from him sprinting through the A gap. He had some juice on that run. More on him in a bit.
  1. Oh, before I leave that line of thinking: Foster completely pie faced S Josh Evans on that long-51 yard run. That stiff-arm was a thing of beauty and power.
  1. CB AJ Bouye's holding penalty kept the Jags first drive rolling and it's got to be something that AJ improves in the future. He's ultra-agressive in man coverage but he'll need to learn to do it with his feet and footwork and not his hands and clutching/grabbing.
  1. I saw a tweet this week from a Jags fan that was, well…I'll let you decide. I'll paraphrase 

*"The world gets to see the most overrated 99 (Watt) and the most underrated 99 (SenDerrick Marks) on the same field on Sunday. Can't wait!" *

Well, he's batting .500 with those two swings at the plate. First of all, any knucklehead that thinks Watt is overrated is blind, stubborn, stupid or all of the above. That said, the tweeter hit the nail on the

head with Marks. That guy is a load to move, quick on his feet and was a disruptive force throughout the game. He singlehandedly destroyed the Texans second drive of the game. I heard a Jaguars analyst over the in-stadium audio system say that Marks was building a Pro Bowl season. Hard to disagree.

And, speaking of the "overrated" (tongue lodged firmly in cheek) Watt…yeah, he's good. Just making sure we're on the same page.

  1. The Texans run game struggled with outside stretch runs as the Jaguars front seven strength and speed flourished in those instances. But, the Texans went to a wham blocking concept late in the first quarter that got Foster out on his 51-yard run. TE Ryan Griffin slid across in motion to just behind the guard, then on the snap, he trap blocked one of the Jaguars down lineman which allowed the interior guys to move up to the second level. It's the perfect play call against a stout, sideline-to-sideline defensive front like Jacksonville's. The Texans went back to that play a few more times during the game with success nearly every time.
  1. Speaking of some wrinkles in the run game…QB sweep with an Ivy Leaguer on the goal line? Don't think my heart didn't grow two sizes like the Grinch after he helped the Whos get back Christmas. So beautiful.
  1. The big play on the goal line, though, was Foster's early fourth quarter TD run. With fourth and goal from the half yard line, up by four, Bill O'Brien decided to go for it after a time out. With some help from his star offensive weapon, OB called for Foster to follow Jay Prosch on an isolation play to the right side. Roadblock. Nothing but Jaguars in the gap. Foster then weaseled out of Jonathan Cyprien's tackle attempt and squirted out to the left for the walk-in touchdown. There were so few Jaguars on that side that Duane Brown and Watt were both looking for someone to block as Foster slid past them.

That touchdown made the score 24-13 and this game was over. There are so ways and so many words to describe Foster but one that we don't use often enough is tough/toughness. He was a full on man on that touchdown run.

  1. The Jaguars played 16 first year players on Sunday and some of the undrafted variety. WR Allen Hurns made a whale of a TD catch right in front of me for the Jags only touchdown. But the Texans undrafted young guys got in the mix too. TE Anthony Denham got a handful of offensive snaps in the game as a flexed tight end on his first game being activated on the game day 46 man roster. Furthermore, he was on a ton of special teams units. Good to see.

The Texans faced the Jaguars at EverBank Field on Sunday.

  1. Speaking of Denham, after Randy Bullock's field goal, Denham sprinted down field covering the kickoff and WHAM, he ran full-on into Tyson Alualu, the Jaguars defensive lineman. It was a collision and Denham was quite proud of himself that he "initiated" the contact and "won", so to speak. He had some words for Alualu who didn't really pay the young buck too much mind.
  1. The Texans third quarter drive, 17 or 18 plays worth, was one of the most impressive drives the Texans have had all year long. I mentioned to O'Brien after the game that it was a drive that nearly everyone got involved and needed to with Andre Johnson in the locker room with a concussion.

Damaris Johnson made a huge third down catch, which he then fumbled and had DeAndre Hopkins recover. Hopkins himself made a strong catch for a first down as he was being held. Keshawn Martin made a nifty catch and run. Of course, Foster was brilliant as usual on the drive, but Alfred Blue brought it home with a short, but forceful, definitive TD run that put the Texans ahead for good.

  1. It's good to see the Texans TE get involved again in the passing game, for really the second straight week. Griffin got open in the middle of the field for a catch in the third quarter that set up Foster's last touchdown. The Texans certainly miss Garrett Graham but Fitzpatrick has found Griffin a few times now the last two weeks.
  1. My man Andre Ware celebrated the 25th anniversary of his Heisman Trophy win this week and it's an honor to spend each and every Sunday with he and Marc Vandermeer on each game broadcast.

Kudos paid, Andre was 1,000,000% right when discussing a head scratching decision made by the Jaguars down by two touchdowns. After a long first down catch by Marcedes Lewis (when the Texans only had ten players on the field), the Jaguars lined up in an unbalanced wide formation with RT Sam Young out on the perimeter with two receivers alongside him. The hope was that the Texans would

misalign to Young and the receivers.

But, here's the thing, the Jags ONLY put one receiver in the route. Bortles didn't throw out to the WR near Young and only had one receiver into the field run the route. The Texans secondary sniffed it out and had said receiver double covered. Now, the key to that formation was the tight end that aligned next to the guard. Because he's aligned, essentially, where the tackle does, the secondary often loses the tight end in coverage.

But, what did Jacksonville do? It asked that tight end, Nic Jacobs in this case, to block Watt one-on-one. Uh, not wise. If you want to align that way, use the alignment to your advantage. As such, Bortles was sacked, which put the Jags well behind schedule, the Texans held on downs and effectively shut down the Jaguars offense down for the day.

When Andre was describing why that play was obviously the wrong choice, I flashed back to a moment when I was coaching many moons and had my team align in an Emory & Henry formation in a key game inside an opponent's ten yard line. I'll draw it up some time, but it was an exotic formation and I was trying to be the smartest coach on the field. It was stupid and my QB got sacked, cost us a TD and nearly the game. I learned a pretty harsh lesson that night and couldn't have agreed with Andre's analysis, especially so with that play's overall design.

  1. After a rough visit to Jacksonville last year and a 15 yard penalty that helped keep a Jaguar field goal drive alive in the first half, DJ Swearinger more than redeemed himself with a game changing pick in the third quarter. After the game, I asked him what he saw and whether he'd seen that route

The Texans faithful showed up at EverBank field to support their favorite team.

before. He said he had an idea of what was coming, took a calculated risk on it and it hit 21. That was his second on the year and the team's 16th interception. Not that a reminder is needed but this team had 11 TOTAL turnovers last year. What a turnaround. See what I did there? Yeah, I'm a little punchy.

  1. Fitzpatrick didn't throw for a ton of yards (135 yards on 13 completions), but he again, managed the game well and when he needed to make the KEY throw, he did. He's running the offense as it's supposed to be and he's made a ton of progress with his progression reads and, simply, finding an open receiver. In the fourth quarter, he eyed Denham on a stick route near the sideline but when Fitz didn't get the look he wanted, he transitioned his eyes back inside and found Hopkins open for a long catch and run on one of the last scoring drives of the day.
  1. I mentioned the Colts-Browns game earlier and it was interesting to see nearly every player in the locker room following the end of that game on his phone. I've never been part of a playoff run at all, so it was intriguing to be hanging on every refresh of twitter. Unfortunately, I saw too many "Ugh. TY Hilton" tweets to know that it wasn't a great outcome. But, this thing isn't over yet and there are three key games left for the Texans to rattle some AFC cages. It continues in the Lucas Oil House of Horrors this week. I won't have to refresh Twitter this week to see what the Colts do - it'll be right in front of me and you.

See you then!

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